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California’s legal catastrophe with the unemployed

Hundreds of thousands of people were wrongfully denied jobless benefits last year

While the U.S. economy continues to struggle and the unemployment rate dips and swells, providing stable benefits for the unemployed is of utmost concern. California has experienced a shocking legal disaster as hundreds of thousands of jobless citizens were denied benefits last year.

The LA Times reports that approximately 163,000 people without work were denied benefits claims, which meant months without unemployment. The appeals made to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board accused the Employment Development Department of wrongfully denying benefits, many of which were overturned by the Board.  

The folks who went without benefits eventually won their appeals, but the sheer numbers of how many were denied benefits initially is creating a huge problem for the Employment Development Department. The department was found to have let phone calls go unanswered, process paperwork in disarray, and host computers that were not technically up-to-snuff for the required work at hand. The system is clearly broken, and legislators have taken up the cause of improving it. 

Senator Henry T. Perea stated: "I believe that any process that yields the incorrect result half of the time is broken at a fundamental level.” That the system, “is plagued by payment delays, overwhelmed call centers and a frequently impenetrable bureaucracy. We cannot afford to continue delaying claimants' benefits to which they are entitled and creating more work for our over-stressed unemployment insurance system." 

Add this legal catastrophe to California’s problems with the unemployed in general. The Sacramento Business Journal reported that California saw an uptick in jobless benefits claims while the unemployed numbers throughout the rest of the country went down. While the state struggles with increasing numbers of jobless citizens, it appears as though it must also rectify its technical procedures for evaluating them. And unless California can get its administrative system together, it will create a snowball effect of the continuous jobless claims piling up on one another. No one wants that once the fresh round of graduates enters the job market this spring, leaving school only to find it a bigger mess than when they entered.


Further reading: 

Potential consequences of firing over Facebook

Google, Apple hit with antitrust labor suit

Texas lawmakers approve drug tests for unemployment applicants

Contributing Author

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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